Four had already left the CIA, and they spent the evening catching up on what they'd done during their clandestine careers, as well as the jobs and moves that followed. But even though Plame's "cover" had been cracked wide open, her dinner companions didn't pry for details. Even in that tight circle, no one wanted to spill any more secrets.
The Plame case brought intense new scrutiny on the White House last week amid disclosures that President Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, is a central figure in the controversy surrounding the "outing" of Plame to the press.
Although often cast in binary terms - an operative is either under cover or not - there are distinct categories of cover that CIA operatives use, and an almost endless list of components. Some cover is tissue-thin and disposable. Other arrangements are so layered and deep that they anticipate hostile probing of every facet of a person's life.
Plame's cover - in which she posed as a private energy consultant while working for a CIA department tracking weapons proliferation - was somewhere in the middle of those extremes.
Still, her clandestine career is over, and the outrage among many current and former case officers lingers because cover is something they go to such great lengths to protect.
"It doesn't matter whether he used her name," Marcinkowski said of the recent disclosures surrounding Rove. "It doesn't matter what her status was. He gave up a piece of the puzzle, and he had no right to do it."
The majority of the agency's undercover officers work in the clandestine service - the branch that operates stations around the world, recruiting spies, tracking terrorists and carrying out covert missions designed to influence events or even topple governments.
Plame's identity was revealed in print two years ago by syndicated columnist and conservative commentator Robert Novak. But cover can be compromised in a number of ways.
More recently, a host of CIA aliases and cover arrangements were exposed in embarrassing fashion by an Italian magistrate. The judge was seeking to prosecute agency operatives for their alleged role in kidnapping a radical Islamic cleric in Milan in 2003 and transferring him to Egypt.